The San Francisco Giants’ Madison Bumgarner is the best pitcher in baseball today, but in college his fastball was just as effective (if not more so), which is why you can find him in the major leagues today. Back in 2007 when he was at Louisiana State University, Bumgarner had a 95 mph fastball (which is pretty impressive). So, how does such a high velocity pitcher not develop a devastating curveball to match?
The San Francisco Giants star left-hander Madison Bumgarner has a curveball, right? Not quite. The four-time all-star threw a curveball in his Major League debut back in 2010. Since then, almost a decade has passed and Bumgarner is still racking up wins while striking out batters at an alarming rate.
There is a fascinating sub-joke that has run through baseball for decades, and it involves the curveball. It isn’t as funny now as it was in the 1960s and 1970s, but the joke is still going. It goes like this: there are two things that every pitcher hates on baseball: the fastball and the curveball. In most cases, that’s true. But, if you are Madison Bumgarner, it’s true only if you’ve never played baseball before. Since he entered the majors in 2012, Bumgarner has been a fastball and a curveball pitcher. Not only is the curveball a
Madison Bumgarner, one of baseball’s greatest starting pitchers over the last two decades, was a force to be reckoned with during his prime years with the San Francisco Giants. During his 11-year Giants career, he was a member of three World Series-winning teams and was selected to four straight All-Star games between 2013 and 2016.
When “MadBum” retires from baseball, he will be inducted into the Hall of Fame as a first-balloter.
Madison Bumgarner was 16 years old when he first threw a curveball.
Denis Poroy/Getty Images/Madison Bumgarner
Bumgarner has perfected the art of pitching by all estimates and measurements. He uses a low-velocity fastball that he pinpoints with pinpoint accuracy, as well as an 86mph cutter that dances off the plater quicker than most sliders.
Bumgarner sometimes throws a change-up and a sweeping 75-78mph curveball.
Bumgarner didn’t even learn how to throw the curveball until he was 16 years old (MLB.com).
Bumgarner’s father was concerned about the possibility of harm.
After the first inning, Madison Bumgarner’s name appeared on the scoreboard. He received an almost minute-long standing ovation and walked out to greet fans: pic.twitter.com/o8Jbr0VYr7
August 11, 2021 — Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS)
While there are allegations that minor league authorities prevented Bumgarner from throwing curveballs because of how excellent of a pitcher he was already, the reality is that Bumgarner’s father didn’t want his son to use breaking balls until his body was physically ready.
Curveballs exert a lot of pressure on the shoulder, which may result in long-term injury if played at a young age. With Tommy John surgery becoming more common in baseball, it seems logical to limit younger players’ ability to throw certain high-spin pitches.
Given that Bumgarner is already in his 13th year in the Major Leagues (he started as a 19-year-old in 2009), it seems that his father was right in limiting his pitch repertoire early on. Bumgarner’s ability to maintain his shoulder in excellent shape has undoubtedly helped his lengthy career as a pitcher.
Aside from health reasons, Bumgarner didn’t even require the breaking ball as he progressed through the minor league levels. As a teenager, the future Hall of Famer’s fastball had progressed to the point that he could strike out opposition batters entirely with the heater.
Bumgarner began his MLB career with a 25.7 percent curveball usage rate before dropping to 9.9 percent in 2012. (Baseball Savant). It’s never been Bumgarner’s go-to pitch (his fastball, slider, and cutter all have/had usage rates north of 30%), which is probably due to his early days of avoiding it.
The current starter for the Arizona Diamondbacks is having a difficult season.
While most baseball fans will remember Bumgarner for his dominance in San Francisco, his most recent endeavor in Arizona hasn’t gone as planned.
Bumgarner is regressing to a back-of-the-rotation arm after signing a five-year, $85 million deal in 2020. In nine starts in 2020, he had a 6.48 ERA, while in 17 starts in 2021, he had a 4.42 ERA. Arizona’s new acquisition has been a letdown.
MadBum is just 32 years old, so there’s still plenty of time for him to turn his DBacks career around. Because of how early he debuted, his tires have a lot of wear on them, but his low-velocity stuff should still be effective as he approaches his mid-30s.
Bumgarner, on the other hand, pitched a seven-inning no-hitter earlier this season, which is quite impressive.
Baseball Reference provided all stats.
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This article broadly covered the following related topics:
- madison bumgarner
- ali saunders
- buster posey
- how to throw a curveball
- types of baseball pitches